Advocate Sidney Pilane this week lashed out at a bench of Court of Appeal (CoA) well regarded judges, accusing them of interjecting him “too much” during his oral submissions.
Pilane who is held with high esteem in the law fraternity cautioned the Judges to guard against interpolating as they interfered with his arguments as well as how he wanted to put them across. The panel consisted of three lordships in the mould of CoA President Justice Ian Kirby, Justice(s) Lord Arthur Hamilton and Jacobus Brand.
Pilane launched the scathing attack when deliberating in a case in which Kgatleng District Council (KDC) was appealing a High Court judgement by Justice Terrence Rannowane. Justice Rannowane had reviewed and set aside the decision by the KDC to refuse to grant Mochudi Wholesalers a building permit and subsequently an occupation permit. The permits, including other requirements satisfaction would have seen Mochudi Wholesalers start trading at the three storey building which is in the shape of a shopping complex now turned white elephant.
Following his one hour deliberations and going into the lunch break, the nonconformist Advocate Pilane raised the concern to Kirby and the two other juries that “you interject too much and I get derailed on my submissions”. Pilane, who can be easily regarded among the first Batswana to earn the title of an Advocate, justified to the panel of judges that they were making him not to argue his case as he wants to “in a coherent manner”.
“One judge asks a question, and while am attempting to answer the other one asks a different one. And I end up not being able to put my main case or argument coherently,” Pilane told the judges to their faces. In hearing the concern, Judge President Kirby who looked not amused by the accusations said they could as well keep quite throughout his submissions if Pilane so wished. “We can all keep quiet, listen until you finish, if it is what you want,” Kirby highlighted to the eccentric Advocate.
In response to Kirby’s comment, Pilane said he was only asking that the judges be considerate. He stated: “I was just asking for you to be considerate and in no way am I implying that the questions/inquiries you pose to me are not helpful. Neither am I saying the answers I give are not of assistance to your lordships.” Kirby also highlighted that senior counsel, Advocate Nigel Redman, who also made submissions before Pilane, was also subjected to similar interjection from the same panel.
It is not the first time that the Judges could not escape the wrath of the one-of-a-kind Pilane whom in February last year expressed the “chilling” similar views. He accused the CoA of having “a lack of respect for lawyers”. According to reports, Pilane told a bench of five CoA judges then that his junior lawyer, Mboki Chilisa (in a case in which they were both pursuing) was “attacked, interrupted and terrorised by the judges who were presiding over a case in which a teacher was fired for criticising President Ian Khama and his administration.”
According to the reports, Advocate Pilane complained that Chilisa was harassed and abused by the judges when he appeared before court. He had said then that “we are happy to be asked questions so that we provide clarity to the court but we want to be respected as we respect the court. He (Chilisa) was constantly interrupted and he hardly finished his sentences.” At some point, Pilane who is also the leader of opposition Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), an affiliate of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), quit the party to try his luck for the Judgeship of the court.
Justice Kirby reserves judgement on main case
Meanwhile, Justice Kirby reserved the judgement on the Council and Mochudi matter to 2 February (in two weeks time). In the main appeal the Council said Justice Rannowane, in his High Court judgement, lost sight of the fact that the application before him was a review of the administrative decision made by the appellant (KDC) on 28 May 2013.
Court papers by KDC indicate that although the appellant (KDC) had negotiated with Mochudi; it had untimely determined that “it could not grant Mochudi a building permit and therefore an occupation permits in respect of the building. The reason for this was manifest. The appellant had not been satisfied by Mochudi that the building is structurally sound.”
The Council continued to point out that, in light of Mochudi having commenced and completed the construction of the building without having obtained the necessary approvals, it was aware that the appellants had been precluded from participating in the building process and from having inspected the construction work at various intervals. “Having regard thereto, it would have been incumbent upon Mochudi to satisfy the appellant of the structurally integrity of the building.”
Justice Rannowane had ruled that the parties were to engage an expert and assess the current structural soundness of the appellant’s building and if satisfied recommend remedial measures and thereafter issue a building and an occupation permit to the appellant. Mochudi Wholesalers Pty (Ltd) had erected the shopping complex and completed in 2003. They were asked in 2009 to demolish and remove the portion of the development from the road reserve as it was said to be encroaching on Pilane/Mochudi road reserve.
On the matter, Pilane said it is clear from the facts that KDC is acting dishonestly and with contumely. “Furthermore the building in question was completed as far back as 2003. More than 12 years have since lapsed with the building vacant, and being subjected to sporadic acts of vandalism, all at their expense.” The appellant, KDC was represented by Senior Counsel, Advocate Nigel Redman, Attorney Laone Serole and Steve Rankwana from Serole and Partners attorneys. Advocate Sidney Pilane together with attorney Monyaka Makunyana were fighting on the side of the Mochudi Wholesalers who own the disputed building.
For so many years, Botswana has been trying to be a self-sufficient country that is able to provide its citizens with locally produced food products. Through appropriate collaborations with parastatals such as CEDA, ISPAAD and LEA, government introduced initiatives such as the Horticulture Impact Accelerator Subsidy-IAS and other funding facilities to facilitate horticultural farmers to increase production levels.
Now that COVID-19 took over and disrupted the food value chain across all economies, Botswana government introduced these initiatives to reduce the import bill by enhancing local market and relieve horticultural farmers from loses or impacts associated with the pandemic.
In more concerted efforts to curb these food crises in the country, government extended the ploughing period for the Southern part of Botswana. The extension was due to the late start of rains in the Southern part of the country.
Last week the Ministry of Agriculture extended the ploughing period for the Northern part of the country, mainly because of rains recently experienced in the country. With these decisions taken urgently, government optimizes food security and reliance on local food production.
When pigs fly, Botswana will be able to produce food to feed its people. This is evident by the numbers released by Statistics Botswana on imports recorded in November 2020, on their International Merchandise Trade Statistics for the month under review.
The numbers say Botswana continues to import most of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Not only that, Batswana relies on South Africa to have something to smoke, to drink and even use as machinery.
According to data from Statistics Botswana, the country’s total imports amounted to P6.881 Million. Diamonds contributed to the total imports at 33%, which is equivalent to P2.3 Million. This was followed by food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment which stood at P912 Million and P790 Million respectively.
Most of these commodities were imported from The Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The Union supplied Botswana with imports valued at over P4.8 Million of Botswana’s imports for the month under review (November 2020). The top most imported commodity group from SACU region was food, beverages and tobacco, with a contribution of P864 Million, which is likely to be around 18.1% of the total imports from the region.
Diamonds and fuel, according to these statistics, contributed 16.0%, or P766 Million and 13.5% or P645 Million respectively. Botswana also showed a strong and desperate reliance on neighbouring South Africa for important commodities. Even though the borders between the two countries in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government took a decision to open border gates for essential services which included the transportation of commodities such as food.
Imports from South Africa recorded in November 2020 stood at P4.615 Million, which accounted for 67.1% of total imports during the month under review. Still from that country, Botswana bought food, beverages and tobacco worth P844 Million (18.3%), diamonds, machinery and fuel worth P758 Million, P601 Million and P562 Million respectively.
Botswana also imported chemicals and rubber products that made a contribution of 11.7% (P542.2 Million) to total imports from South Africa during the month under review, (November 2020).
The European Union also came to Botswana’s rescue in the previous year. Botswana received imports worth P698.3 Million from the EU, accounting for 10.1% of the total imports during the same month. The major group commodity imported from the EU was diamonds, accounting for 86.9% (P606.6 Million), of imports from the Union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, at 8.9% (P609.1 Million) of total imports during the period under review.
Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Thapelo Matsheka says an improvement in exports and commodity prices will drive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth in the region is anticipated to recover modestly to 3.2% in 2021. Matsheka said this when delivering the Annual Budget Speech virtually in Gaborone on the 1st of February 2021.
He said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational in January 2021, could reduce the region’s vulnerability to global disruptions, as well as deepen trade and economic integration.
“This could also help boost competition and productivity. Successful implementation of AfCFTA will, of necessity, require Member States to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and generally make it easier to do business and invest across borders.”
Matsheka, who is also a Member of Parliament for Lobatse, an ailing town which houses the struggling biggest meat processing company in the country- Botswana Meat Commission, (BMC), said the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recognizes the need to prioritize the key processes required for the implementation of the AfCFTA.
“The revised SACU Tariff Offer, which comprises 5,988 product lines with agreed Rules of Origin, representing 77% of the SACU Tariff Book, was submitted to the African Union Commission (AUC) in November 2020. The government is in the process of evaluating the tariff offers of other AfCFTA members prior to ratification, following which Botswana’s participation in AfCFTA will come to effect.”
Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.
Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.
Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.
Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.
There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.
The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.
And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.
Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.
Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”
Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.
Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.
On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.
The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.